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Old 07-17-2006, 08:28 PM   #1
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Exclamation Help needed with axle install!!!

So we're currently in the middle of a very large trip. We left Charleston, SC on 4/4/04, and we've been to Nova Scotia, Vancouver, San Diego, and we're currently near Aspen, CO. We're not independently wealthy, so we've stopped and worked for about 5 months at a time in three places along the way. As our Safari is a 1965 with the original axle, I think it's a good idea to replace it, as it's starting to bottom out occasionally, damaging the wheel wells. And then of course there's the recurring daymare of the wheel coming off entirely...
Here is what is going on. I brought my Safari to the nearest trailer place to us, in Rifle, CO. the estimate to put in a new Dexter is $550 parts, $140 labor. I went with a 5200# axle, and assumed a place that "does these all the time" would be able to figure out the rest. I went to pick it up this weekend, and the trailing arms of the new axle are angled UPWARD. I pointed this out to the GM and service manager, and told them there was no way I could accept it like that. I need to tell them soon (tomorrow, if possible) what downward angle axle to order, as their idea of the 0 to -10 angle axle is not what I am looking for. My 40 year old original axle had a better downward angle.
What angle is recommended? I've seen 22 degree and 32 degree mentioned. Is there an officially "correct" angle? Do I need to find some place to weld on shock mounts for the new axle, or do I really not need them? We'll be leaving here in early October, so I've got some time in case the SNAFU continues.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Brad
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:33 PM   #2
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22.5 degree down angle should be OEM. Also, a Safari probably shouldn't have that heavy-duty of an axle, as it may be stiff enough to start breaking things in the coach.
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:35 PM   #3
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22.5 degrees down was the original specification.

In "new axis axle" you'll see that I ordered a 4,000# axle and it was delivered too weak, although it was 22.5 down. I wound up with about 3-5 degrees up. The axle was returned and beefed up, but it's still a little weaker than I wanted, since it's approximately level. However, it did a good job in its test trip--5,000 miles.

I'm wondering if the weight spec is treated differently by these vendors. I think they ought to spec the axle for the weight on wheels (not including the tongue weight). Maybe they think we're telling them the ultimate weight, rather than the nominal weight, which would result in an under strenght axle.
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeppelinium
I'm wondering if the weight spec is treated differently by these vendors. I think they ought to spec the axle for the weight on wheels (not including the tongue weight). Maybe they think we're telling them the ultimate weight, rather than the nominal weight, which would result in an under strenght axle.
The rating of the axle is considered to be maximum capacity.
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Old 07-17-2006, 09:19 PM   #5
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1965 Safari

Original 1965 had a 5,000# axle with 22 1/2 start angle. The coach had a dry weight of 3320#....another reason to go with Henschen, afew more dollars but more time on the road. Consider too increasing the start angle to more than 22 1/2, maybe 35, abit more road clearance to clear those gas station dips and speed bumps.

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Old 07-18-2006, 08:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
The rating of the axle is considered to be maximum capacity.
Maybe I'm confused (see below and you'd know it), but does that imply that for a cargo-carrying trailer, if you knew the usual load, you'd have to multiply that by some factor in order to specify a max load?

You'd have to know what the spring rate of the axle is and the up limit in order to calculate the maximum load, then back that off to the nominal load. I can see that on a cargo-carrying trailer that can go from x to 3x in sprung weight, as you load it, specing the max load makes sense. But for Airstreams, where the sprung load only varies from x to 1.1X, it does not. You'll see below what Axis did and you'll understand my comment.

The Dexter technical page does give enough info to make this calculation, but I believe their user manual specifies "axle capacity" as GVW (gross vehicle weight) minus hitch load (tongue weight). This sounds pretty much like you'd take the Airstream to the scales and get the weight on the tires only, then make adjustments for holding tanks and other stores. The resulting weight would be the "full load."

The Dexter technical data further suggests that the nominal weight is a sufficient specification (in the case of an Airstream), since the swing arm position chart shows a "no load", "full load", and "shock load" dimension. For a nominal 3000# axle starting at 22.5 degrees down, the down dimension at no load is 3.3", under full load it's 1.5", and under shock it's .5" (all down). They require 3" of tire clearance above the full load condition, or about 2" above the shock load. (I'm making an assumption here that "shock load" is where the swing arm goes when you hit a pothole. I'm also making an assumption, following your "maximum capacity" idea, that you could load the trailer to the point that the swing arm was at 0.5" down and you'd still have some suspension action--you're not on the hard stop at that point.)

All of this implies to me that if you had a trailer where the weight on the tires was 4000# and you spec'd an axle to support 4000#, you'd get an axle that was 1.5" down when you installed that axle.

That's not what I got when I told Axis to build me a 4000# axle, even though the plate on the orginal axle said 4000#. I installed the Axis axle and it was 0.5" up. Clearly significantly understrength. I sent it back and they beefed it up and put a plate on it saying 5200#. When the beefed up axle was installed it was down maybe 0.2". That tells me that it is still understrength, but it performed well on a long trip. So now I have an axle that says 5200# and it's still not strong enough to support a trailer that has 3700# on the tires.

I'd hate to think that if you got a good weight on tires you'd have to multiply that by some factor (like 1.5x or 2x) in order to spec an axle.

....I know axleman is going to weigh in here (no pun intended) and clarify this for all of us....
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:06 AM   #7
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Two schools!

Zep,

Axleman here, weighing in!

The Axis axle weight rating is the maximum that the axle will hold! Simply put, trailer (no tow vehicle) loaded and placed on a scale - full of water, food and any additional items. If the axle weight rating says 4000# your scale weight better not exceed 4000# total.

The Dexter system allows the hitch to take some of the weight - 10-18% depending on hitch type.

I hope this helps.

Additionally, 22.5 degrees down is the standard, 32 degrees down increases ride height slightly. Dexter Engineering (like Axis, AlKo, Reliable, Quality, Lippert and others) say shocks are not required on a torsion axle - though most Airstream owners (I've been told) prefer them.

Regards,
Henry

PS: Zep - I no longer work at Axis but your tag issue seems very fishy to me? A 5200# axle that won't hold 3700# is suspect, in my eyes!!!
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Old 07-18-2006, 07:17 PM   #8
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Lovely...

So if I want stock height, it's 22.5", and if I want to raise it a little with no ill effects, (saying this, I'll knock the AC off on the next low bridge) then 32.5 is just fine. I think the shop I went to ordered a 0 degree axle. It would have been fine if I was towing a hot air balloon and filling the coach with helium, but as it was, I didn't want to leave the lot with it like that. There was also the idea of not giving them any money until they did it right.
Thanks for the ninja-quick reflexes in answering my plea for help.

Brad
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Old 07-19-2006, 06:08 AM   #9
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I think????

Brad,

I think we are in agreement - however the stock trailing arm angle is 22.5 degrees down (you stated 22.5" ride height). Just wanted to make sure!

This is a standard setting for Dexter, as is 32 degrees down.

Better luck the second time - I hope!

Best Regards,
Henry
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:11 PM   #10
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The fun continues

So here is the latest excitement in my saga. I called the shop today to tell them that I'd like 32 degrees down, and they acted very confused. I got a "Whoa, where did you get that?" response. They think that they will get a lot of flack if they try to get that angle from Dexter, and now they want me to back it up with something official- a website or shop that can tell them that this angle would be just fine. At this point, I am wishing that saying "nevermind" and pulling my Safari anywhere else was an option, but I have their lovely negative-degree axle attached underneath, so that wouldn't go well.
So here is my question... are any of you that are giving me this much appreciated advice attached to anything official-sounding enough to get these weirdos to order what I'm asking them to order? I think they would go for something like Starfleet Command- I'm hoping someone would be willing to let these guys call and ask if that is right. I suppose if it gets too annoying, I can get in touch with Dexter myself and order it, giving them the big "I told you so".

Brad
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:33 PM   #11
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Oop's

Brad,

I may have steered you wrong. I sold axles for Axis Products and we used 32 degree arms. I checked the Dexter website and found they do not, interesting - clearly my mistake. I reviewed the site and think you may want to inquire about 22.5 degree down with a high profile bracket. This would gain roughly .75" of ride height (similar to the difference between 22.5 vs 32 degree arms) if you feel that you need the extra height. This is Dexter language - see what the response is to that.

I will point out that 22.5 degrees down is likely fine, as that is the way your unit came from the factory.

Just two cents from a retired axle dude - sorry if I pointed you in the wrong direction.

Best Regards,
Henry
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:47 PM   #12
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So this would be a custom axle

After I posted that last one, I got on to Dexter's site and did the "contact us" thing. What you're saying is that 22.5 is the most Dexter will let you order without doing some sort of (probably very unpleasant and expensive) custom order? I suppose that the extra height isn't THAT important, but it'd be nice to not hear the occasional scraping noise when coming out of the gas station. This extra height bracket- do you have any experience in this sort of thing? Does it compromise stability or mount strength in your opinion? My goal is to do this one time, the right way, so that 40 years from now, someone will say "Huh, 2006", the way I said "Huh, 1964" when I looked at our old axle on the ground.
And is everyone decided that shocks are not important enough to worry about? If not, then why did Wally want them? Hmm... I'm sure this has been debated here before.

Brad
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 65Safari65
After I posted that last one, I got on to Dexter's site and did the "contact us" thing. What you're saying is that 22.5 is the most Dexter will let you order without doing some sort of (probably very unpleasant and expensive) custom order? I suppose that the extra height isn't THAT important, but it'd be nice to not hear the occasional scraping noise when coming out of the gas station. This extra height bracket- do you have any experience in this sort of thing? Does it compromise stability or mount strength in your opinion? My goal is to do this one time, the right way, so that 40 years from now, someone will say "Huh, 2006", the way I said "Huh, 1964" when I looked at our old axle on the ground.
And is everyone decided that shocks are not important enough to worry about? If not, then why did Wally want them? Hmm... I'm sure this has been debated here before.

Brad
We routinely provide 35 degree axles, everyday.

Andy
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:58 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
We routinely provide 35 degree axles, everyday.

Andy
Andy sold me one of these, and I was happy with it. In fact, I am going to install one on another coach this weekend.
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